Confession: Runners scare me.
They’re like the cool kids in school. They’re scary and big and just way better at everything, but you just so desperately want to be like them. Or at least I do.
Let me back up. Today I read a column that really got under my skin for multiple reasons. The tone and the thought process behind it just didn’t sit right with me. So I polled a few friends and asked them what they thought (granted, all these friends are around the same age as me). But each one had the same reaction I did; one friend put it best when she said it “really burned (her) biscuits.”
This is the column, titled “The Slowest Generation” (yes, it’s really called that), on WSJ.com I’m referring to. It discusses, from the perspective of a Baby Boomer, the decline of serious young runners in America. It also touches on how running events are not what they used to be, saying they’re more of a “parade” (his actual word) than a serious competition.
Once I started reading the articles inside, though, I felt intimidated. “Whoa, these people are SERIOUS” was my first reaction. The editor’s letter was a mixed bag for me. On one hand, he acknowledged me, a new reader, when he wrote, “As you’ve no doubt noticed, we evoke this curious trend on this month’s cover. If you’re a new or casual runner, you probably love it. It may have compelled you to open this magazine for the first time. (If so, welcome!)” This part made me feel happy and included.
But the next sentence said, “If you’re a decades-long subscriber who trains seriously and chases PRs, you may be a little turned off. I get it.”
And just like that, I felt like the cool kids were pushing me out already.
Because I will probably never be an awesome runner. I will probably never run a marathon (though I’d like to shoot for a half at some point). I’m still going to eat and drink what I want most of the time. I’m going to be more focused on fun than being at the front of the pack at races.
But so what? As long as I’m doing SOMETHING, that’s the most important thing, is it not?
Because guess what? I started trying to run because of The Color Run. I saw the photos and thought, “That looks FUN.” So I went to a running store for the first time and plopped $100 down for my first pair of real running shoes. But my feet hurt after a few months of owning them, so I went to another running store. Another $100 pair of shoes, only slightly less pain.
So, because I had The Color Run coming up, I wanted to get to the root of the problem. So I went to an actual foot doctor. They X-rayed my feet, watched me walk, and made molds of my feet. I’ve always attributed my foot pain to having no arch whatsoever, but the foot doctor said it was much more than that. Turns out the bones in my feet all grew slightly crooked. And my hips are a bit turned in. Surprise!
So, because of The Color Run and how excited I was to run it, I paid for a rather expensive set of orthopedic inserts. I have an arch for the first time in my life! But, more important, I can run for more than a few seconds without feeling like my feet are going to snap.
I’ve spent a lot of time and money in the pursuit of running. Because I was pulled into the fun, silly side of running. I’ve joked around and said I would only do a 5K if it was slightly gimmicky. That’s not far from the truth, though.
My first 5K ever, which was in July, was the Milwaukee Brewers Sausage 5K. For those not aware, the Milwaukee Brewers have five sausage mascots that race during every 7th inning stretch at Miller Park. They’re a thing of legend around here. So the chance to race with them?! AWESOME. But I was a bit intimidated that morning. Sure, lots of the people there were families/friends just there for a good time (I walked/ran it with my dad, mom, and sister), but a good chunk of the participants meant BUSINESS. They were stretching when we showed up. They didn’t really seem to make eye contact with anyone else. They were focused.
Now, I’m not knocking them, really. Because it’s awesome that they were out there probably going for personal bests. But, to a little first timer like me, it was overwhelming. I just wanted to have fun!
The Color Run was a completely different experience. EVERYONE was there for the fun of it. Yes, people were running, but most of them were chatting with their teammates as they ran, shrieking whenever they hit a color zone. I heard people behind us in the starting chute joking, “We’ll finish last. But it’s OK!”
And why wouldn’t it be? They were there. They were smiling and laughing and having a grand ol’ time. They had gotten their butts out of bed on a Sunday morning to something fun, which also just happened to be a form of exercise. Plus, if the whole going-3ish-miles wasn’t your exact cup of tea, the after party was a blast. When else do you get to rave with complete strangers after just finishing your first 5K (many of the people in the crowd cheered when our emcee asked if it was anyone’s first 5K) while simultaneously being dosed in color dye?